OCP servers at Facebook
When a major company like Microsoft announces a new release, you generally expect to be shown the final product. After all, big companies usually use product releases as PR stunts. They kick off a major press cycle with hype over new features to get people to pay attention. Microsoft has decided to take a different approach this time around by announcing a different kind of innovation.
Rather than dazzle the world with a finished new product, Microsoft has humbly rolled out its new cloud server hardware design by open sourcing it halfway through the design process. The product is not ready to bring to market, and is being included in the Open Compute Project (OCP) as an experiment in hardware design.
Microsoft is asking a bold question: Can open source hardware work like open source software does?
Open source software is often public from the very first line of code, inviting strangers and friends alike to have a say in its creation. Hardware, on the other hand, has previously been seen as unsuitable for this decentralized process. Microsoft thinks otherwise, and is now committing to open source some of its other hardware projects after they reach 50 percent completeness.
Microsoft's goal of increasing the speed of innovation through increased transparency and inclusivity is admirable. They are making a risky move in the hope of not only creating a better cloud server hardware design, but a better hardware design process itself. If it works, Microsoft could find itself at the center of a revolution in open source hardware.